Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Oodles of Doodles

Almost everyone doodles, right? Remember trying to stay awake for that long and boring lecture and thinking that if you try making designs out of some of the letters, that may keep your eyes open? Remember when taking notes turning them into patterns of nothingness? Remember having to wait and wait and wait for a ride, and doodling wiles away the time?

Consider taking a second look at your doodles. See some patterns arise? See some sort of design coming out of the tangled mess? Ah, yes, that’s what artists are doing: making something out of nothing! When next you click on Google or go to a bookstore or a craft store, notice the plethora of materials related to doodling, i.e. zendoodle or zentangle. In fact, zentangle has become a registered name for an American method of drawing, doodling, making patterns that cause the drawer to feel calm and centered.

The big craft companies have started marketing oodles of doodles and tangles that people do without much thinking into books full of designs made to motivate awareness and sales. The simpleness of everyday doodling, however, can be regained by drawing for oneself. Notice the replication of my hand above and the way I have divided that hand into segments, sometimes making curvy lines into an enclosed design, or circles within circles, and even connecting the dots to dots for no reason. These simple repetitions soon become pleasing to the eye and calming to the spirit. Try decorating your hand and see what happens.

Mary Jane Berger, OSB

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Easter Dandelions

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On our Emmaus Walk one year, Sam proposed dandelions replace Easter Lilies.

“No!” I was aghast.

In fifteen minutes, he had me convinced.

Bending over, he picked a dandelion, held it under my chin, smiling broadly. “Here, you do it.” I laughed. He had to lift his beard. As I waved the flower around his neck and chin, everything reflected yellow. “Aren’t we supposed to become like Christ?” “You’re stretching it, Sam,” I thought. “And, dandelions always follow the sun, in the morning to the east and in the evening west. Now, what better disciple?” The obvious homonym "sun/Son" was not lost on me.

He mused that dozens would replace those I picked for a bouquet. “Doesn’t that remind you of resurrection? Christ’s triumph over death? Even if you would have pulled it by the root, it would be back.”

“Did you ever blow the fluffy seeds away when you were a kid?” I was a little slow here. “Look, aren’t we supposed to go out and bring the Good News to everyone? Blowing those seeds? Who knows where they go? Seems they do a lot better of spreading things around than we do.”

I was getting the picture. “Did you ever have Dandelion Wine? They used to make it at St. Ben’s. First wine I ever had. I’d say dandelions are food and drink and Jesus was always feeding people.”

I was hooked.

We won’t see dandelions in church on Easter any time soon, but what do you think? Can you add to our list? What about the dandelion makes you think of Easter, or Christ, or Resurrection or even being a Christian?

Pat Pickett, OblSB

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Way Back Then

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When I wanted
To get it all right
I indulged in
A tediously lengthy
And partially sincere
Catalog of my iniquities.
But then I had a crib sheet
So that no fault would feel left

My confessor,
An aging portly monk,
Had one good ear
And one bad. The joke
Was he listened
With the bad. For him
There was nothing
New under the sun.

And then, with a sigh, after I
Had filed each sin by number
And title, he turned to face me
With my depravity,
Or even with my
Small spirit,
And with the warmest smile,
Looked me straight in the eye,
Charles, you must realizeYou are a child of grace.For your penanceYou must learnThe art and joyOf simple gratitude.

(Previously “Gratitude”)

Charles Preble, OblSB

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

As I write this, it is snowing, sufficient to give a context to at least one line of my blog! And secondly, I will decide NOT to list again the reasons why it is a “December kind of day”! Instead, I ask you to join me in singing Joe Wise’s poignantly expressed song of the 1970s where he brings it all together in our human minds and hearts, and I believe that our song and prayer will lift it all into the very Heart of God during this Lenten season. Let us pray:

Lord, teach us to pray...
It’s been a long and cold December kind of day
With our hearts and hands all busy in our private little wars
We stand and watch each other now from separate shores
We lose the way.

I need to know today the way things should be in my head.
I need to know for once now the things that should be said.
I’ve got to learn to walk around as if I were not dead.
I’ve got to find a way to learn to live. (Refrain)

I still get so distracted by the color of my skin.
I still get so upset now when I find that I don’t win.
I meet so many strangers—I’m slow to take them in.
I’ve got to find a way to really live. (Refrain)

I stand so safe and sterile as I watch a man fall flat.
I’m silent with a man who’d like to know just where I’m at.
With the aged and the lonely I can barely tip my hat.
I need to see the sin of “I don’t care.” (Refrain)

I stand so smug and sure before the people I’ve out-guessed.
To let a man be who he is I still see as a test.
And when it all comes down to “must,” I’m sure my way is best.
I’ve got to find what “room” means in my heart. (Refrain)

Lord, teach us to pray.
We believe that we can find a better way.
Teach us to pray. We lose the way.
Teach us to pray.

Thank you, dear readers, for joining me in prayer.  I love you.

And all the people said: AMEN.

Renée Domeier, OSB

Thursday, April 4, 2019

St. Margaret, Queen of the Scots

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I have recently returned from a trip to Ireland and Scotland. I left with memories of a lifetime and a newfound respect for how these early Christians fought to sustain and renew their Catholic heritage. One of the historical sites visited left an almost mystical impression. Edinburgh Castle is what legends are made of, but it is a real castle, where real people lived their lives for centuries. Walking the grounds, hearing the history and viewing the artifacts was a humbling experience. 

The oldest building on the grounds of the castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 1100 AD. This chapel was saved from destruction by Robert de Bruce when the Scots were fighting for their independence from England in 1314 AD. A small abode with lack of splendor on the exterior, the interior was humble, as well. However, light beamed through the small stained-glass windows and flowers adorned the tiny altar. The chapel belonged to St. Margaret, queen of Scotland, who lived from 1047 to 1093. What I found most intriguing about St. Margaret’s was she was Benedictine educated; she followed the Rule of St. Benedict during her lifetime. 

While Margaret married King Malcolm and they raised eight children, she continued to lead a life of prayer, helping the poor and convincing her husband, the King, to distribute money to the needy. Her husband so loved her holy books containing the prayers and psalms she read daily, he had the books covered with gold and jewels. Margaret also raised the funds to build a Benedictine monastery at Dunfermline. 

Truly a woman of influence during this historical period, she never stopped living according to the Rule of St. Benedict according to the text written. Was this the first oblate of Scotland? Of the world? After all, she did not live a cloistered, monastic life, but one of the world. Even to this day, a Chapel Guild still pays tribute to this woman. Twice weekly, fresh flowers are placed on the altar to remind visitors of the holy life St. Margaret, queen of the Scots, lived.

As I reflect on her life, I ask myself this question: “If this woman of the 1,100 century could be an oblate according to the Rule of St. Benedict, what lessons and principles does she offer me in my journey as an oblate?” 

Mary Baier, OblSB

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Hardest Thing to Do

Have you ever thought to yourself, “This is the hardest thing to do”? Author Penelope Willcocks has written a book with the title, The Hardest Thing to Do. She writes about her characters, monks in Saint Alcuin’s Abbey in the 14th century. Her gifted writing brings the monks to life. One example she acknowledges occurs as a novice whispers to himself, “This is the hardest thing to do” when he is closing a door as quietly as possible. Another time, when the abbot is addressing a difficult situation, he speaks softly to himself, “This is the hardest thing to do.” I have uttered these words especially when doing something for the first time. It may be as I am preparing to lead prayers, learning a new psalm tone or when asked to write an article for a publication. In the end, it usually turns out fine, and through the experience, I have gained confidence in myself. For me, simply saying the words “This is the hardest thing to do” helps me acknowledge that I do not want to give up, so I try a little harder to do a task a little better. I have learned to depend on God for assistance. Daily living in the monastery is a school if I am open to listen and learn. In fact, Saint Benedict calls the monastery a "school for the Lord's service."

If you would like more information about Saint Benedict’s Monastery, please contact Sister Lisa Rose at lrose@csbsju.edu.

Lisa Rose, OSB